Monday, January 2, 2017

My 2016 in review: Musicals and plays

In 2016 I was fortunate to see many great musicals and plays.  I love seeing shows, and now that I'm running BroadwayEconomics.com, I also am looking for new songs that help teach about economics.

Shows in New York (6 Broadway, 1 off-Broadway)

1. Hamilton



The whole show is great, but I don't think I've ever been more astonished by a song/scene for how they handled the Dinner Table Compromise - where Jefferson and Hamilton agreed to let Hamilton open the Central Bank in exchange for the capital being moved from New York to its current location on the Potomac.  I've always been fascinated by this moment in history and the way the show portrayed it was fascinating.

With Hamilton the music is so good, many who get the soundtrack listen to the whole thing prior to seeing the show ... I listened to the first act prior to going, and think it was a bit of a mistake. I enjoyed the 2nd act so much more.  I don't think it was because the 2nd act is better, I think it was the surprise. I would recommend that those who have tickets perhaps listen to part of it first, but not the whole thing.


2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.


I usually prefer musicals to plays, but this was one of the best plays that I have ever seen.  The story does a fantastic job of getting you in the head of the (likely) autistic lead character.

3. Waitress

Great music and entertaining.  The song "When He Sees Me" was one of the top songs I saw on the stage in 2016.




4. She Loves Me

Just a fun show - incredibly fun.  It also has two songs that I have now posted on Broadway Economics.



5. Bright Star.

We actually had front row seats for this one!  A fantastic bluegrass score and a great story.



6. Fiddler on the Roof

I had seen this show almost 20 years ago.  That was with a touring group and the seats weren't great.  I did not enjoy it back then.

This was a completely different experience.  Seeing a fantastic cast perform Fiddler on the Roof is an absolute treat.



7. Avenue Q

I had heard much of this score over the years and had looked forward to seeing this show since 2004.  I don't know if my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed.  I think I might have known the material too well - I suspect if I didn't know any of the songs or jokes I would have been more entertained.



London

I got to see three shows in the West End in London.

1. Funny Girl

I saw this in London when co-leading an international trip.  I saw the understudy, Natasha Barnes, as the lead role and she was absolutely fantastic.  I know it was the west end and not Broadway, but if it were on Broadway this is the type of performance that would have garnered a Tony nomination.  The show ... not bad, although I certainly don't need to see it again.

2. Sunny Afternoon (The Musical of the Kinks)

Of the three London shows, this was my favorite.  Outside of Mamma Mia, this was my favorite jukebox musical (ever).  Just great music and the story was also fantastic.  I didn't know the music of The Kinks too well before this (maybe 3-4 songs) and wow, The Kinks had some fantastic songs!





3. The Threepenny Opera



I had never seen this before.  What a weird story.  It was pretty cool to see this show with a world-class cast, but it was weird.  (And I have no desire to see it again.)



Touring Casts, Colleges, and Community Theatre

1. Cinderella (Hershey Theatre)

A great show - better than I expected.  Very good music and an interesting story.  (It doesn't exactly follow the Disney movie version ... which is good.)  Also, one song from this show is on Broadway Economics.

2. Ragtime (Hershey Theatre)

The score of this show is simply fantastic.  Click here for Henry Ford!

3. The Addams Family (Susquehanna University)

4. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Gammage Theatre - Tempe, AZ)

5. Carousel (Bucknell University)

This show was fantastic, and even better, my older two children got roles in this college production.  (They needed some younger actors to fill out the cast.)

6. Of Thee I Sing

The first musical to ever win a Pulitzer Prize.  This was one of my favorites, largely because my three favorite actors each had a role.














Thursday, December 29, 2016

My 2016 in review: Books I read

Throughout the year - I read a fair number of books.  Here are some of the books that I found most enjoyable or informative.

1. New Money, Staying Rich.  (By Philip Buchanon)

Really interesting book about the financial pressures felt when relatively uneducated athletes (at least uneducated about how to handle wealth) come into huge sums of money.  The stories presented here are quite sad.  Many people seem to feel entitled to the wealth of those who earn it and it has caused serious problems for thousands of professional athletes.

2. So You've Been Publicly Shamed (By Jon Ronson)

Fantastic read about the history of shaming.  Best non-econ/non-fiction book I read in 2016.

3. Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway (By Michael Riedel)

If you like Broadway shows and history, you'll really enjoy this book.  Lots of nuggets of the economics behind shows as well - a very entertaining read.

4. Narco-Economics (Tom Wainwright)

Fantastic economic analysis of drug cartels, why they might collude, when they might fight, and the consequences.  This book applies economic analysis to illegal drug manufacturing - and naturally the results of what has happened makes total sense.  Highly recommend.

5. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling)

Fantastic - if you're a Harry Potter fan.  I just wish I could get tickets to the show ...

6. Autobiography of Mike Sexton (Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson)
7. Biography of Stu Ungar (Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson)

--- #6 and #7 are great for poker afficiandos

8. Partners (John Grisham short)

It is short, but fun if you like Grisham.

9. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (J.K. Rowling)
10. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists (J.K. Rowling)
11. Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (J.K. Rowling)

These three short stories are fun if you are a fan of the Harry Potter series.

11.  The New Trail of Tears (N.S. Riley)

This book, featuring how the US government's policies are dooming reservations is fantastic and horrifying at the same time.  I really recommend reading it, but it will depress you.

12. The War on Cops (Heather Mac Donald)

Great, but disturbing.

13. The Upside of Inequality (Edward Conard)

I discussed this book here

14. Liar's Poker (Michael Lewis)

An older book I just hadn't read before.  It was entertaining, but I found his disdain for the finance industry a bit off-putting and quite unlike the people I've met from the major financial companies.  I've never worked on Wall Street, but the graduates from Susquehanna we send to major financial companies are among the nicest and smartest I know.

15. The Whistler (John Grisham)

I enjoy Grisham's books - this one was entertaining.

16. Tradition!: The Highly Improbable, Ultimately Triumphant Broadway-to-Hollywood Story of Fiddler on the Roof, the World's Most Beloved Musical (Barbara Isenberg)

Great read for theatre fans.

17. Hamilton: The Revolution (Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter)

See comment for #16.

In the queue (or just started)
1. Verbal Poker Tells
2. Order to Kill (Vince Flynn)
3. Brain Rules
4. The iPhone Photographer

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Smokers’ BMI and Perceived Health: Does the Order of Questions Matter?

"Smokers’ BMI and Perceived Health: Does the Order of Questions Matter?" is the title of a paper I wrote that was just published at Preventive Medicine Reports.  The link is here.  This was coauthored with Richard O'Connor and Maansi Bansal-Travers.

Here is the abstract:
We surveyed 431 daily smokers between November 2014-March 2015 to examine the impact of the order of questions on the response to a self-reported health question as part of a larger experimental study. We randomized the question order, with some respondents providing their weight prior to self-reporting their health, while others did the opposite. We found that self-reported health outcomes are worse when smokers are first asked to report their weight. However, the order of questions only seems to impact those who are overweight as we did not find evidence that the order of questions affected responses for those with a BMI below 25. These findings suggest that the order of asking self-rated health and weight questions appears to matter, at least for overweight current smokers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Jeffrey Dorfman Visits Susquehanna

On Thursday, as part of the Liberty and Economic Freedom Speaker Series, we had Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman visit campus.  His talk, "How the well-meaning government hurts the poor" was supurb.  I was pleased that about 250-275 people showed up in Degenstein Theatre to see him talk: approximately 10% of the student body was there!



The biggest thing I learned was about the magnitude of the disincentives faced by the working poor to gain raises or promotions.  At one point in the talk, he described the incentives faced by a single mom.  If she earns under $29,000, she will receive many extra government benefits.  But once she hits $29,000, she starts losing so much in benefits that she won't have the same level of after-tax income/benefits until she earns $69,000!  That is terrible policy and gives the working poor an incentive to NOT seek promotions or acquire additional human capital.



One main problem is all of the different government agencies have their rules on when benefits get phased out, but most are in the same income range.  I left the talk somewhat depressed, as the easy solution for this would be to abolish all the welfare programs and replace them with cash payments.  The political likelihood of that happening soon, however, is next to zero.

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Newest Publication: Using Experimental Auctions to Examine Demand for E-cigarettes

Here is the link to my newest publication, "Using Experimental Auctions to Examine Demand for E-cigarettes", in Nicotine and Tobacco Research

Abstract
Background: E-cigarettes are the latest in a line of potentially reduced exposure products that have garnered interest among smokers.
Methods: In this paper, we use experimental auctions to estimate smokers’ demand for e-cigarettes and to assess the impact of advertisements on willingness-to-pay. These are actual auctions, with winners and losers, which means hypothetical biases often seen in surveys are minimized.
Implications: Given these reduced harm products are appealing, if smokers are able to switch completely to e-cigarettes, there is a good chance for accrual of significant harm reduction.